Contractor Talk - Professional Construction and Remodeling Forum banner
1 - 20 of 24 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
403 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well after 4 years, I'm dealing with my first un-happy customer.

I gave her an estimate in July 10 of 2007.

She wanted to accept the estimate in late august in which I went through about 4 price increases at that time (if everyone remembers the increases through the summer of 2007).

I told her, I'm taking a loss, but I'll honor the price.

I asked for half down, to purchase materials, and I needed to beat another increase that happened the next week.

She got her down payment out, I purchased materials.

I was doing a roof, siding, window and wrap job south of town, and was about 7 weeks out.

Buy the time, we arrived to do the work, the weather was cold.

She was concerned her roof might not make it through the winter, so we agreed to start the roof, the following Monday, rather than put it off till spring (Materials already purchased).

Monday, was about 20 degree's, and it did start to snow. She was upset we did not already have the roof done, so we worked in the cold, as it was late November and the weather would not get any better until late April.

At about noon, she called, and asked that we hold off. By noon, Monday, the roof was already half off. It is a small 12 sq investment house.

At that point, we are obligated to finish.

She had concerns, that the weather was too cold, and wanted to wait until June to pay the other half, to make sure the roof does not leak (rain tested). I was NOT okay with it, but I did not lien the property, and sent her an invoice June 1st.

She refuses to pay the last $900 on the job. Because she says it's too cold to apply a shingle in November, and she has talked to many roofers. She says the installers were too young (I was 26 at the time). We are a shingle master company, installers are shingle master installers. The contract states nothing about removing a chimney, but she says we were suppose to remove it. I have offered to address any "problems" she has, and remove the chimney. Oh, she also stated in a letter after I produced the invoice again on June 1st, that her tenant stepped on a nail back in November.

My plan was to:

-Go to claims court
-get documents from CertainTeed. -cold weather application-
-Get a memo from the local inspector -cold weather application-
-I've inspected to ensure the shingles are sealed down (pictures taken)
-Offer in writing to take out the chimney (even if the contract does not call for it)
-Bring my certifications, license, insurance, application certification, company certification (we are the only ones in the county)

Anyone with experience similar, or advice, other documents that may help? Thanks in advance!
 

·
solar guy
Joined
·
1,917 Posts
Well after 4 years, I'm dealing with my first un-happy customer.

I gave her an estimate in July 10 of 2007.

She wanted to accept the estimate in late august in which I went through about 4 price increases at that time (if everyone remembers the increases through the summer of 2007).

I told her, I'm taking a loss, but I'll honor the price.

I asked for half down, to purchase materials, and I needed to beat another increase that happened the next week.

She got her down payment out, I purchased materials.

I was doing a roof, siding, window and wrap job south of town, and was about 7 weeks out.

Buy the time, we arrived to do the work, the weather was cold.

She was concerned her roof might not make it through the winter, so we agreed to start the roof, the following Monday, rather than put it off till spring (Materials already purchased).

Monday, was about 20 degree's, and it did start to snow. She was upset we did not already have the roof done, so we worked in the cold, as it was late November and the weather would not get any better until late April.

At about noon, she called, and asked that we hold off. By noon, Monday, the roof was already half off. It is a small 12 sq investment house.

At that point, we are obligated to finish.

She had concerns, that the weather was too cold, and wanted to wait until June to pay the other half, to make sure the roof does not leak (rain tested). I was NOT okay with it, but I did not lien the property, and sent her an invoice June 1st.

She refuses to pay the last $900 on the job. Because she says it's too cold to apply a shingle in November, and she has talked to many roofers. She says the installers were too young (I was 26 at the time). We are a shingle master company, installers are shingle master installers. The contract states nothing about removing a chimney, but she says we were suppose to remove it. I have offered to address any "problems" she has, and remove the chimney. Oh, she also stated in a letter after I produced the invoice again on June 1st, that her tenant stepped on a nail back in November.

My plan was to:

-Go to claims court
-get documents from CertainTeed. -cold weather application-
-Get a memo from the local inspector -cold weather application-
-I've inspected to ensure the shingles are sealed down (pictures taken)
-Offer in writing to take out the chimney (even if the contract does not call for it)
-Bring my certifications, license, insurance, application certification, company certification (we are the only ones in the county)

Anyone with experience similar, or advice, other documents that may help? Thanks in advance!
I would do everything on the list initially except item 1. Gather all of it together and send it to her with a demand letter demanding payment in full. AFTER payment in full is received then remove chimney. Go to court as a last resort if possible.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
992 Posts
It sucks and she probably does this a lot but it's only $900. I dont think it will be worth your time to take her to court for that. From a financial standpoint any way, you can if you wish out of principal.

I would send her the stuff you have and also threaten her with a lien notice.( its too late to inforce but she may not now that. And hopefully she will pay you if not move on it should be figured in your cost of doing business any way.

Also i just got paid from a guy that has owed me $1,500 for 9 months i just kept sending letters.
Good Luck
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
403 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
I would do everything on the list initially except item 1. Gather all of it together and send it to her with a demand letter demanding payment in full. AFTER payment in full is received then remove chimney. Go to court as a last resort if possible.

I like that advice, and I'll take it.

I've been very nice, and understanding with her, and she has not been so with me.

It's only $900, but I don't think I run any chance of loosing, and it's just small claims for that amount. I have all the information I need already to win, just have to show up.

She lives 5 states away, and would have to drive to our local county court house to go to court.

I'm hesitant to present her with much information, as I would like to have surprises for her in court, and not her surprise me.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,185 Posts
If you go to small claims court, you can produce all of that evidence, but only if you are a sole proprietor.

If you are incorporated, you can not represent yourself and have to have a lawyer, plus in regular court, their is a notice of Discovery, whereby each party must provide the other party with ALL documents that they intend on producing for evidence and any witnesses you intend on calling.

Place the Mechanics Lien on it. The "Rain Test" should have been treated as a potential warranty condition after full and final payment.

Your contract should state full and final payment due upon substantial completion.

Just think, could You or your family use that $900.00?

It is yours, now go get it.

Ed
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
184 Posts
Sweeten the deal and avoid having to waste your time and money on this situation. It looks like you didn't take charge from the beginning and now she is taking you for a ride. I would be up front and tell her you are at the point of taking her to court, show her all your documentation, and tell her you are willing to settle for $750, otherwise you will go to court and take all $900. It's disappointing when you have a problem customer, especially when you do quality work and try hard to please them.
It's also a good lesson to learn. Perhaps you should leave a smaller percentage of the profit for the final payment. Also, did you state the scope of the work in your contract or was this just an unsigned estimate? IMO, I would never have so willing decreased profit just to take on this job. If material went up, so should the price. This may have been the first step in this homeowner's reasoning where she knew she could take you for a ride. Or maybe she even assumed that you were ripping her off if you could still do the job and make money when materials had already gone up. Just something to think about. We've all been there.
 

·
solar guy
Joined
·
1,917 Posts
If you go to small claims court, you can produce all of that evidence, but only if you are a sole proprietor.

If you are incorporated, you can not represent yourself and have to have a lawyer, plus in regular court, their is a notice of Discovery, whereby each party must provide the other party with ALL documents that they intend on producing for evidence and any witnesses you intend on calling.

Place the Mechanics Lien on it. The "Rain Test" should have been treated as a potential warranty condition after full and final payment.

Your contract should state full and final payment due upon substantial completion.

Just think, could You or your family use that $900.00?

It is yours, now go get it.

Ed
Everything he said is true. If you are an llc or corp the legal fees would probably cost more than you can collect and if the court awards legal fees which should be included in the complaint they may be limited.
 

·
Thom
Joined
·
4,137 Posts
Everything he said is true. If you are an llc or corp the legal fees would probably cost more than you can collect and if the court awards legal fees which should be included in the complaint they may be limited.
In my state, a principal may represent an LLC in court. I have done that on many occasions.

Getting an inspectors opinion in writing is meaningless. It will not be allowed into evidence unless the inspector is there to present it. Reference materials (provided by the manufacturer) are acceptable as evidence.

Don't bother threatening her, just file in small claims court. You will need to find and hire a process server who lives in her jurisdiction but the actual suit and her need to deal with it is all that will motivate her.

The objections she is providing are all excuses. Removing the chimney will not change things so don't even offer. There will be a constant series of excuses that will never end. Ignore them and go to court or else just give it up.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
403 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I am a sole Proprietor, so I can rep myself on this mattter.

As far as time, and filing, I have a full time secretary that I'm paying every day anyway, so no extra cost other than the fee's which I would go after also.

Unless she can bring documents stating Michigan Residential Building code prevents builders from installing in the winter, I don't see how she has a chance.

I'll state no such Code exist, and bring a CertainTeed 8th addition shingle installation manual with me to court that outlines the cold weather application.

Everything is installed in compliance with that manual, as stated on the contract. Anything that is wrong, I'll offer to fix or bring to compliance.
 

·
Multi-tradesman defender
Joined
·
390 Posts
Man, has everyone gone mad? When did $900.00, include the word "only" in front of it. If you're willing to lose $900.00 on jobs, can you please just send it my way!

It doesn't matter if it is $90.00, $900.00 or $9,000.00, everyone has a point where they will not accept a loss any longer, I think you have found your point. Personally I cannot see how you let the customer dictate when she would pay you.

Why woud you tear out a chimney if you were not contracted to do it? Why would you do it for free? Do not even offer this to her, can't you see what will happen next? It will open up a new can of worms for you if it was not spelled out in the initial scope. She would probably state that you removed the chimney and were not supposed to. Has the fireplace been removed fro the inside of the home? What is to stop someone from lighting a fire and then burning up the house, it is a rental right?

If I saw a fireplace on the inside of a house, I can't honestly say I would look for a chimney before I lit the fire, especially since I would assume the landlord woud have this type of thing maintained.
  • Do not offer a discount
  • Do not do free work
  • Do write a demand letter and send it certified
  • Do send her to collections if she does not pay
  • Do take her to small claims
  • Do not let this happen again, take control from the start
Shoot, small claims can be entertaining, you may want to take her to court just for the sport of it. Better than television.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
402 Posts
My opinion...you should not have waited 3 months to go do a 12 square job. If you told her 7 weeks you should have went out of your way to make sure it was done before snow was flying. I dont like a roof thats installed in the cold either.....
 

·
Certified Crazy!
Joined
·
404 Posts
I would not send her all that information. My reasoning is this, you will probably have to take her to court. Because of this you might consider saving all your ammunition and use it to convince the judge of your credentials.

Convincing her will not do you any good, she's already made up her mind about you.

Once you've shown the judge everything she is going to look pretty silly in the judge's eyes.

Your covered as long as you used a cold weather application if it was warranted due to the temperature. I mean come on the roofing industry does not stop world wide when winter comes! If it did we'd have to double our prices, end of story! lol

So if you decide to wait for court with all your documentation then here is what I suggest in the mean time.

Send her a certified letter with a return receipt requested.

In plain simple terms state that this is a demand for payment and that she has X days to make payment or you will proceed to do the following. No threats, you must put in the letter exactly what you intend on doing.

Take her to court
Sell her debt to a collection agency so you can get paid in full.
File a lien on her property
Sue her in court.
Dance in your undies in front of her house until she pays you.
whatever....

Now hopefully she does not go get the mail, at which point the letter will be returned to you. If it is returned do not open it. Leave it for court day and let the judge open it. = ) Oh and proceed with whatever actions you outlined in the letter too, this shows the judge you were serious about getting this matter resolved.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
403 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
The time of the job is not the problem she has, the weather is. Because it was done in late November.

I had given her the estimate on July 10th of 2009. At that time, I was about 7 weeks out.

Between July 10th and August 7th when she accepted the proposal, I booked 2 other jobs. One was a 33 square roof, soffit/fascia and 66 square siding job, windows and wraps.

She financed the job, and I went through 2 shingle price increases in that time, and still honored the price because I was understanding and she financed it for the exact amount.

If she is unhappy, she does not have to reffer me to anyone. She did request that I do the roof, and request that I do it in november, so she is still responsible for paying the agreed upon price.

If she provides documents that something is not done to specs, I'm happy to change it and bring it up to specs.

She actually even complained about the age of my help, I was 26 when she hired me for the job and I'm younger than all my installers.

I sent her a letter, addressing her complaints. Offered to remove the chimney, upon full payment for the job. Enclosed in with the letter was an invoice, and a intent to lien document.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
403 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
well?

any response??

I mailed her a intent to lien the property with an invoice for 450 for the cost to lien the property and a 10% increase for the lack of payment.

She had mailed me a letter about concerns as the roof was installed by "young" installers (i was 26 when I contracted the job) and the cold weather.

I replied to her letter, said I would be happy to fix anything that was not code approved, gave her the name and phone number to the local building inspector then.

She called me, started complaining about this and that. I simply said I did not have the time to argue about age, gender or race of the installers (all mid 20's white guys) and would be happy to address anything not approved by the manufacture (certainTeed) or not code aproved per the request of any inspector.

She hung up on me, and my attorney is taking it from there. In the last letter, I assured her I would pay my attorney more than $900 for this, but I was happy to do that.

I'll be sure to keep posted on the court dates as they come, but from what I understand she just lost a horse ranch and had to move back into this investment property, so I really think it's just a matter of she is lacking the money and is looking for a way out.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
412 Posts
I've always installed roofs through rain, snow sleet and freezing rain and I've never had a call back or problem with a roof. I don't think she has a leg to stand on. I'm also in Michigan. I've been installing roofs since I was 18, the foreman was probably 24, and I don't remember the "Boss" ever being on the roof.

For the amount of money and time spent, you could probably secure another better paying job and make more than what you'll end up with, which is nothing if she is broke or about to go bankrupt. I know it is aggravating the first time it happens. I've never had it happen with a customer, but I'm taken for a few hundred every couple years by subs or by renters, it's just the cost of doing business.
 

·
Administrator
Sawdust follows Me Everywhere
Joined
·
64,335 Posts
What is ridiculous is she thinks she can get out of paying for the job because of the age of the installers.
 

·
Superior Firepower
Joined
·
5,089 Posts
Take her to court. The Judge will ask if the work is done. When you say yes, he will say "Pay the Man."
The judge will see right through her smoke and mirrors. She has nothing to stand on.
Once you win in court, if she does not pay that very day. Slap a Lien on the house.
With a judgement, you have a better chance of recovery.
 
1 - 20 of 24 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top